Certifications, training to increase addiction medicine specialists


Two new workforce developments aim to increase the number of addiction medicine specialists and provide new training opportunities in the subspecialty.

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recently certified its first formal wave of addiction medicine physicians, adding 1,200 specialists to the field. Addiction medicine was first recognized as a subspecialty by ABMS in 2015, followed by the first certification exam in 2017.

Dr. Lon R. Hays, president of the Addicition Medicine Foundation, Chevy Chase, MD and director of addiction medicine fellowship program at the Univesity of Kentucky, Lexington

Dr. Lon R. Hays

In addition, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will now offer medical residents accredited, 1-year subspecialty training programs in addiction medicine. The fellowships are open to residents who have completed a residency in a primary specialty such as pediatrics, family medicine, or internal medicine. The full-time fellowship programs will be based in hospitals, outpatient programs, and community clinics.

The two developments “will change the landscape in substance use prevention, early intervention, and in addiction treatment and management,” said Lon R. Hays, MD, president of The Addiction Medicine Foundation, in Chevy Chase, Md., and director of the addiction medicine fellowship program at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

“Many more trained physicians will be available to address the opioid crisis and other addictions,” Dr. Hays said in a statement. “They will also be able to help prevent and intervene early with unhealthy substance use in all its forms. For the first time, when aspiring physicians consider a career path, they will now have as an available choice an addiction medicine specialty that meets the highest standards of medicine.”

Dr. Timothy Brennan

Dr. Timothy Brennan

The new certifications are a tremendous development for addiction medicine, said Timothy K. Brennan, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospitals, both in New York. He also directs the addiction medicine fellowship program at Mount Sinai and is vice president for medical and academic affairs for The Addiction Medicine Foundation.

“When the American Board of Medical Specialties welcomed addiction medicine as its newest subspecialty, it in a lot of ways, legitimized our discipline,” Dr. Brennan said in an interview. “The American Board of Medical Specialties really represents the ‘House of Medicine.’ Being able to enter into that, it gives us a measure of credibility in the eyes of the public, and it basically codifies that these physicians who have passed this board exam have achieved a level of competency and knowledge that makes them trustworthy and safe to provide care to folks suffering from addiction.”

Next Article: